2018 Fiat 500

2018 FIAT 500 C Abarth Review

The 2018 Fiat 500 brings much-needed style and handling prowess to the subcompact segment.
author
by Cameron Rogers
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Subcompact cars generally aren't much to write home about. They usually sacrifice materials quality, quick acceleration and an exciting driving experience in exchange for a rock-bottom price tag. Something must have been lost in the English to Italian translation, however, because the 2018 Fiat 500 offers what others don't. Not only is this pint-size coupe fun to drive, but it also brings distinctly European design flair to this otherwise dowdy segment.

The 500 has been on sale for a while now without any significant refresh, but the things we liked about it when it debuted for the 2012 model year hold true even today. The cabin design surpasses many in this field, and its cute looks still command attention on the road. Plus, the previous naturally aspirated base engine has been replaced with a turbocharged unit, so this year's 500 is noticeably quicker than the 2017 model.

On the other hand, we're not sold on the top Abarth trim's performance chops, especially considering you can get the more luxurious and faster Mini Hardtop for about the same price. We think the base Pop and more luxurious Lounge are both better buys. There are still some inherent downsides, too, such as the cabin that's really only big enough for two people. Overall, though, the 500 is a good choice if you want an affordable subcompact with some personality.



What's new for 2018

The naturally aspirated engine on last year's Pop and Lounge models has been dropped and replaced by a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder. A new Urbana appearance package — with blacked-out wheels and headlight surrounds, along with black interior trim — debuts for Pop models. A rearview camera is now standard.

We recommend

The 2018 Fiat 500 is a spunky car that deserves a little extra Italian flair with its cute-as-a-button looks. That's why we'd go with the mid-trim Lounge. The price jump is pretty high, but the 500 Lounge is still reasonably priced. The extra cash outlay primarily adds leather upholstery and a glass roof, but there are other goodies such as satellite radio and heated front seats, too. We're not impressed by the Abarth's purported performance chops, even though it's not much more expensive than the Lounge, so we wouldn't recommend that one unless you absolutely need the additional power.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Fiat 500 is a small city car with seating for four, although the rear seats are only suitable for very small children. It's available as a two-door hatchback or convertible (Fiat calls this the 500C) that uses fixed roof rails and a folding center portion. The base Pop model is lightly equipped, but its price is quite reasonable. The midlevel Lounge is more expensive, but many will find the leather upholstery and other goodies worth the extra cost. The performance-oriented Abarth rounds out the lineup, with a peppier engine, sport-tuned suspension and boisterous exhaust note.

All three trims are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic is optional. In the Pop and Lounge models, the engine produces 135 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. Abarth models receive a modest but noticeable power bump: Manual-equipped versions produce 160 hp and 170 lb-ft, while automatic models make 157 hp and 183 lb-ft.

Standard features for the Pop trim include 16-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, hill start assist, heated mirrors, foglights, keyless locking and unlocking, air conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a 7-inch color driver information display, 50/50-split folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel, a cargo cover, and Fiat Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment interface with a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, voice controls, and a six-speaker Alpine audio system with an auxiliary audio input and two USB ports (one for mobile device integration, the other for charging). The Pop convertible also comes with rear parking sensors.

The luxurious Lounge trim includes all of the above, plus chrome exterior trim, a fixed glass roof, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather upholstery and satellite radio.

At the top of the Fiat 500 food chain is the performance-focused Abarth. It includes the parking sensors from the Lounge and adds a more powerful engine, a rear spoiler, sportier suspension tuning, upgraded brakes with red-painted calipers, a performance exhaust system, distinctive exterior and interior styling tweaks, premium cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a sport steering wheel and front floor mats.

Some of the Lounge's extra features can be added to the Pop and Abarth as options. Other popular options include a sunroof for coupe models, 17-inch wheels for the Abarth, a six-speaker Beats Audio sound system with a trunk-mounted subwoofer, a navigation system, and a variety of Mopar-branded exterior and interior styling enhancements.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the Fiat 500C Abarth Convertible (turbo 1.4L inline-4 | 6-speed automatic | FWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted in 2015, the current 500 has received some revisions, including a new touchscreen in 2016. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's 500, however.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall

Driving

2.0 / 5

Acceleration2.5 / 5
Braking2.0 / 5
Steering2.0 / 5
Handling2.0 / 5
Drivability2.0 / 5

Comfort

2.5 / 5

Seat comfort2.5 / 5
Ride comfort3.0 / 5
Noise & vibration2.0 / 5

Interior

2.0 / 5

Ease of use2.0 / 5
Getting in/getting out2.5 / 5
Roominess2.0 / 5
Quality2.0 / 5

Driving2.0

The Abarth may look and sound sporty, but its actions don't back up the bravado. With 157 horsepower, you can spin the front tires at full throttle. But in terms of instrumented acceleration numbers, it can barely keep up with the base Mini Cooper Hardtop, let alone the Cooper S model.

Acceleration2.5

The Abarth reached 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, a tick slower than the Cooper but well behind the Cooper S. There's considerable turbo lag from the turbocharged engine when leaving a stoplight, followed by a nice hit of power. The shifts from the six-speed automatic are quick.

Braking2.0

In a simulated-panic stop, the Abarth required 125 feet to stop from 60 mph; this is a typical result for a small car with all-season tires. There was noticeable side-to-side wiggle during our panic-brake test, making it feel a bit unsettled.

Steering2.0

Steering effort is appropriate for a sporty runabout, but there's little feedback to indicate when the front tires are losing grip. The Sport button firms the steering up but doesn't add more feedback. The turning circle is SUV-like.

Handling2.0

Compared to its rivals, the Abarth is less sporty on a curvy road. It feels top-heavy, and the front tires frequently wash out and struggle to regain traction. It doesn't instill confidence like its competitors.

Drivability2.0

The hesitation on initial acceleration gets frustrating; the car works better with the manual transmission. The Sport button livens things up. The massive space needed for U-turns — the Abarth has a 37.6-foot turning circle — makes it poor for tight city driving.

Comfort2.5

Limitations to seat and steering wheel adjustability compromise comfort, and the contouring of the front seat will bother some drivers. The lack of adequate elbow padding and the drone of the engine and exhaust further hurt comfort scores. The ride quality is decent enough.

Seat comfort2.5

Average-size adults will find that the lack of a telescoping steering wheel forces them to sit closer and more upright than preferred. The contour at the top of the seatback also creates an uncomfortable pressure point for some drivers.

Ride comfort3.0

Despite its sporty intentions, the Abarth's ride quality isn't overly firm. You do feel flaws in the pavement, but the 500 rarely comes across as harsh or overly intrusive. That said, moderate undulations will cause some jostling.

Noise & vibration2.0

Purely for the fun of it, the Abarth's exhaust is loud, with only a minor reward in terms of actual power. For some, this booming baritone will seem tiresome. Others will dig it. It was hard to detect road and wind noise over the commotion.

Interior2.0

While the 500's minimalist interior has a certain retro design appeal, it also serves to limit the functionality of many systems. The limited passenger space leaves it trailing rivals by a considerable margin.

Ease of use2.0

The primary controls are simple in terms of layout and operation, but they're also limited in functionality. Searching for music on external devices is difficult at best.

Getting in/getting out2.5

The doors are short in length for easy access in tight spots, and they open wide. The narrow opening to the rear seat means it's nearly impossible for adults to crawl back there. Even if you can do it, you'll look and feel awkward.

Roominess2.0

Most adults will feel confined up front, especially if there is a front passenger. The hard center console can protrude into the side of the driver's right knee. The rear seats are suitable for children only.

Visibility

All-around visibility is good with the top up, but when the top is fully retracted, it severely blocks the view rearward to the point that even large city buses can be hidden from view. A standard rearview camera helps getting out of parking spots.

Quality2.0

Hard plastics are more prevalent in the Fiat 500 than in its competition. The surfaces feel flimsy and have a tendency to creak. For the most part, the interior falls short of the standard set by the Mini Hardtop.

Convertible top2.0

It's hard to consider the fabric roof panel a true convertible top since it's more like a retractable panoramic sunroof. Folded back, it completely obscures the rearward view and blocks access to the trunk.

Utility2.0

The cabriolet's trunk only measures 5.4 cubic feet, roughly half the capacity of the hatchback model. The tiny opening hampers usefulness. It's a struggle to get a carry-on suitcase to fit. Interior storage is minimal, with shallow door pockets and cramped cupholders.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.